Hindu group in US reject criminalisation of swastika, saying its auspicious symbol was misappropriated by Nazis
WASHINGTON: A prominent Hindu organisation has extended its campaign to educate Americans on the swastika as an auspicious sign of goodness after yet another US state legislature sought to ban it as a symbol of hate.
A move by the Maryland House of Delegates to pass House Bill 0418 has irked the Hindu American Foundation (HAF), which argues that the poorly written bill could negatively affect Hindus, "or worse, our homes and religious sites could become targets."
The organisation said the bill falsely defines the swastika as a symbol of hate and bans its display on school grounds, including on clothing, book bags, folders, and similar items, while cautioning that "our kids could be subjected to even more bullying in school." Right wing neo-Nazi groups and white supremacist extremists in the US have been spotted sporting the swastika at gatherings.
Opposition to the Maryland bill following the HAF's success in thwarting a similar bill in New York, where it convinced key lawmakers of the swastika's historical origins and use today as a symbol in various religions such as Hinduism, Sikhism, Jainism, and Buddhism before it was misappropriated by the Nazis. But now there are more bills popping up in other state capitols that would falsely define the swastika as a symbol of hate and criminalize its display, the HAF warned.
In a separate "reporter's guide" HAF explained that in Sanskrit, the word swastika is a combination of ‘su’ (meaning ‘good’) and ‘asti’ (meaning ‘to exist’) — often getting translated as ‘all is well.’ The swastika is thus understood to be a symbol of auspiciousness and good fortune.
Though the Nazi symbol was originally called the hakenkreuz (‘hooked cross)’, early translations of Adolf Hilter’s “Mein Kampf” into English substituted swastika for hakenkreuz, thereby popularizing the notion of a “Nazi swastika,” it said.
The organisation also revealed that Hindu leaders had discussed the issue with Jewish leaders at a 2008, Hindu-Jewish leadership summit in Jerusalem resulting in a declaration recognizing the importance and positive intent of Hindus using the swastika.
“Swastika is an ancient and greatly auspicious symbol of the Hindu tradition. It is inscribed on Hindu temples, ritual altars, entrances, and even account books. A distorted version of this sacred symbol was misappropriated by the Third Reich in Germany, and abused as an emblem under which heinous crimes were perpetrated against humanity, particularly the Jewish people. The participants recognize that this symbol is, and has been sacred to Hindus for millennia, long before its misappropriation,” HAF quoted the declaration as saying.